We started with HubSpot in March of 2014. When we began, we had no history with blogging or content creation of any kind. Like many small companies, we had a fairly static website, a Facebook page, and little else in the way of web presence.
We knew we had to do something to ignite our presence on the web, and after learning about HubSpot, we decided to jump into blogging. Content creation has been our springboard into the digital world, and producing frequent, high-quality articles has been the foundation for our success with the blog and beyond.
Setting Goals and Starting Out
We got off to an extremely slow start at Bellingham Electric. A full six months after signing up for HubSpot, our first blog was published live. During this time, we spent a lot of time — more than we should have — preparing to write content, forming our team internally, and getting all of our technical resources, photos, etc. in place.
It was a good accomplishment to get something published, but we knew that if we continued at that rate of publication, despite the power of HubSpot’s tools and the potential that organic search could bring us, we’d never achieve our goals.
Fortunately, the same rigor we applied to this “preparation” phase was quickly applied to our editorial calendar, and we began to produce content more frequently.
Once we started to publish regular articles, our goal was ultimately to publish one new article per week. This was later increased to two per week, and the results have been beyond our expectations.
Since our first reader in August of 2014, we’ve steadily increased our traffic, and we're now consistently drawing 5,000 plus readers per month to our blog. Our traffic is increasing at a growing rate, and we're optimistic about doubling or tripling our traffic in the upcoming year.
If you're a small company like ours — under 20 employees — you're probably wondering how we can consistently publish over 100 quality blog posts annually in addition to getting our “day jobs” done.
The answer is in our process.
There are five important steps that make up our process, and each is critical in helping us accomplish our goal of publishing 100 high quality new blog posts annually. These steps use the HubSpot blogging and social tools.
1. Set a Publication Schedule
For us, knowing that we have a schedule was key. Like an old-fashioned newspaper, there's an expectation that our Monday and Wednesday blog “editions,” as we call them, will come out each week regardless of any other circumstance.
We have an editorial calendar that shows all of the publication dates and the articles that are slated to be published on which dates.
All members of the team are keenly aware of how far “ahead” we are on content creation. Sometimes, when business is strong in our retail store or a key member of our staff is on vacation, we can run within a week or a few days of an edition deadline without a polished blog post ready to go. However, when we have the wind at our back, fully staffed and in a content creation groove, we can run three or four weeks ahead on both our Monday and Wednesday editions, with posts queued up in HubSpot to auto-publish.
Regardless of circumstance, we keep writing and editing each week, and the rest seems to take care of itself.
- Set a goal for a number of posts you want to publish and when. For us, it's 104 per year, two per week.
- Bring life to your editions by naming them and perhaps even theming them. For us, our Monday and Wednesday editions are a bit different topically, and they have different authors working on them.
- Once the schedule is set, stick to it. Make it a priority and hit all deadlines. A long string of past articles published on time is great motivation for the future.
Learn more about editorial calendars in the Content Marketing Certification.
2. Gather a List of Targeted Topics
We all know how important keyword selection is, but I really believe its value can’t be overstated. Having a list of high-quality topics for authors to choose from is valuable on several fronts.
First, quality matters. Publishing 100 mediocre posts and publishing 100 high-quality, targeted posts are two very different things. We see this in the history of our blogs and how they've performed. In the early going, we picked topics at random. Some posts did well, others didn’t. Later on, we started working from a pre-selected topics list that had been researched in HubSpot’s keyword tool for monthly traffic count and difficulty. As a result, our ratio of high-performing posts is way up.
Secondly, having a picklist of topics for authors to work from helps with consistency. Writer's block can be a challenge for anyone, but having a pre-selected topic can get the writer off first base.
How we did it.
Selecting high-impact keywords is important. We use the "get suggestions" option in the tool to generate a list of keywords around a particular topic of interest. We then load selected long-tail keywords into our keyword tool and look at the monthly search volume and difficulty to try to select keywords that are realistic to try and rank for. These keywords are then placed on the list for our authors to choose from.
- Spend some time generating a large list of well-researched keywords using HubSpot’s keyword tool.
- Publish the list to all authors and keep it updated so that it's clear when topics have been assigned and completed.
3. Recruit Members of Your Company to Be Writers and Proofreaders
When it comes to content creation, I don’t think you can go it alone. This is especially true in a small business where there's no one person dedicated to content creation on a full-time basis. Even if your business has an in-house marketing person or someone strictly focused on digital marketing, I think it's still a stretch to have them go it alone.
In our company, we're currently using four staff members in the process with plans to increase that number to five or six. This means about 30% of our workforce will have some involvement in creating content.
Everyone’s content creation process will differ, but for us, we find it most effective to have writers who also double as proofreaders for each other’s content, and one person who controls all interaction with the HubSpot user interface. The writers simply have to write their own articles and proofread other articles. The HubSpot liaison is responsible for generating keyword lists, physically entering the posts into HubSpot, monitoring performance, and communicating results to the rest of the team in a distilled format.
We use HubSpot’s preview tool to create previews of the posts that we can email to our proofreaders so they can see how the live post will look and suggest changes. From your blog post, just hit preview (the eye icon on the left-hand side), and HubSpot creates a shareable preview for you, in all different device modes.
When talking about quality, the importance of proofreading can’t be overstated. We send all posts through multiple rounds of proofreading to ensure they're polished before going live. It's a small time investment for the return you get in terms of quality.
- Explain the importance of your content creation strategy to your team members.
- Select the right team members to fill the roles you set up on your content team.
- Expand the team and refine roles as you set higher content creation goals.
- Proofread, proofread, proofread … then publish.
4. Use the HubSpot Scheduling Feature
Hubspot provides many great tools to help make your blog successful. For us, one of the most effective and easiest to use is the scheduling feature.
When our authors are pushing out content and we're ahead on proofreading, it's nice to be able to take the completed blogs and set them for publication. Set it and forget it, as they say.
Once a blog post is finished and ready to go, we immediately schedule it in HubSpot for either the Monday or Wednesday edition. From your blog post, just select publish or schedule at the top, click the "schedule for later" option, choose your date and time, and hit schedule — it's that easy. You can view all of your upcoming posts from your blog home screen by hitting the “scheduled” tab on the left.
As soon as it's logged in and scheduled, we update our editorial calendar to show that the slot is filled and the blog is scheduled. This feature is particularly helpful for me, as the team leader. In my role, I’m the only person who actually uses the HubSpot software, and I have oversight of the editorial calendar. This tool helps keep me on top of where we are at all times, which I can, in turn, clearly communicate to our team.
5. Maximize the Impact of Each Post With the HubSpot Social Tool
As we’ve noted, it isn’t just about publishing 100 posts, it's about posting 100 quality posts.
One of the attributes of quality is post distribution and impact. HubSpot’s social tools help you maximize impact for each post you spend so much time creating. An important first step is ensuring that you have Facebook, Twitter, Google +, and LinkedIn accounts set up for your business.
From there, connecting the social accounts to HubSpot is your next step. Once you're set up and ready to go, you’ll want to make sure that each time you work on an article you ensure that the social publishing information is set on the settings tab of the blog post. Then, once you schedule your post for publication as outlined in step four above, you’ll be good to go.
Scheduling the post will ensure that it's automatically published on your blog and seamlessly pushed through to your social media when the publication date arrives.
- Ensure your business has accounts on all relevant social media platforms.
- Set up your social accounts on your social settings tab in Hubspot.
- Complete the social publishing information on each blog you create.
- Schedule your blogs for publication using HubSpot’s scheduling tool, and your social publishing will take care of itself.
Employing these strategies and pushing out high-quality content has proven to be just what our business needed in terms of growing our website traffic.
In our first year using HubSpot, most of our traffic was coming from direct traffic to our website, and we were averaging around 2,000 hits per month in total. In our last month, March 2017, we had over 8,000 total hits to our site — a 300% increase, and almost 75% of the traffic comes from our blog, which means almost 100% of the growth in overall traffic can be attributed to our blog.
It's no coincidence that we're simultaneously experiencing growth in our business at a rate that well-exceeds the industry average. And perhaps most importantly, we're providing informative content to our customers and experiencing unprecedented engagement from staff members who are involved in creating content.
Good luck with your next 100 articles.